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August 30, 2023

Hot Toddy

Simple to make and endlessly versatile, our classic hot toddy recipe is one for the ages! Make it our way a few times, and then feel free to play around and make it yours!


homemade hot toddy recipe with a lemon slice and cinnamon stick in a mug on the counter

Our Very Best Hot Toddy Recipe

Whether you’re actually après-ski or simply trying to warm up, a hot toddy always does the trick. Hot water and whiskey make for a warming duo that’ll thaw through even the most icy of days (and moods, too). Simple to make and endlessly versatile, our classic hot toddy recipe is one for the ages, though, between us, you barely need a recipe to make a great hot toddy. Make it our way a few times to get the hang of it, and then you should feel free to experiment. Add a little more lemon juice, or a little less honey. Try rum instead of bourbon, or Scotch, or brandy. With some combination of warm, honey-sweetened water and a bit of lemon and booze, even the “misses” will be hits.

cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise, honey, lemon juice, bitters, bourbon and lemon slices to make a hot toddy

What Is a Hot Toddy, and Is It Good for You?

So a hot toddy is usually some combination of hot water, lemon juice and brown booze—often whiskey, but sometimes brandy or rum. And is a hot toddy good for you? Well, sweet, wishful-thinking reader, that’s a tough one. Can we, in good conscience, tell you that a drink with nearly two ounces of whiskey in it is medicinally beneficial? No, we cannot. However! It’s likely that the historical origins of the hot toddy are tied up in some sort of medicinal intent. Warm liquid and honey are certainly effective in soothing sore throats and coughs—in fact, some studies have shown honey to be nearly as effective as most over-the-counter cough medicines—but add liquor to the mix and the health benefits of hot toddies become a little more murky. But who cares? We don’t drink hot toddies because they’re strictly medicinal. We drink them because they soothe us in other ways! And because they taste so gosh darn good. If you’re full-on sick, go to the doctor, OK? But if you’re suffering from the winter blues? Well, then our classic, perfect hot toddy recipe might just cure what ails you.

a cinnamon stick, cloves and star anise in a mug with hot water

What’s in a Hot Toddy?

Warming and boozy and lemony, the classic hot toddy recipe can be as simple as warm water with a drizzle of honey, a squeeze of lemon and a glug of brown liquor. We like to add a few whole spices and we always use bourbon, so our hot toddy recipe reflects those preferences. You can also play around with using tea or apple cider instead of just warm water. But at its most basic, a hot toddy is comprised of simply:

  • Hot water.

  • Booze.

  • Lemon juice.

  • Honey.

a cinnamon stick, anise, cloves, hot water, honey, lemon juice, bitters and bourbon in a mug with a spoon

And the Best Whiskey for a Hot Toddy Is....

Bourbon! Well, at least, bourbon is our favorite. But actually, the best whiskey for a hot toddy is whatever suits your palate best! Whiskies vary a lot in style. Maybe you already have a favorite! We like the way that bourbon—which tends to be a bit on the sweeter side of the whiskey spectrum—complements the sweetness of the honey in a hot toddy. But you might like the smokiness that a heavily peated Scotch—helloooooo Laphroaig!—or maybe you prefer the middle way and find that your favorite whiskey for a hot toddy is something Irish, like Jameson. There’s no wrong choice here. You can use what you’ve got on hand, or you can use this hot toddy recipe as an excuse to add a good bourbon to your home bar. Just be sure to use a whiskey that you enjoy drinking, and you will be sure to make a fine toddy.

a homemade hot toddy in a mug with cinnamon stick, clove, anise and a lemons lice for garnish

Tips For Making the Best Hot Toddy

Simple recipes usually demand good ingredients and just a touch of technique and that’s certainly the case with our hot toddy recipe. Here are a few secrets to success:

  1. Warm your mug. You’re boiling water anyway, so take a moment to pour a bit of hot water in your mug before you mix the drink. It’ll make the whole experience just a bit more luxe.

  2. Use good booze. A hot toddy isn’t the moment for that Lagavulin 18-year, but it’s also not the moment for an absolute bottom-shelf whiskey, either. Use a good-quality whiskey you’d happily sip straight up.

  3. Use good honey. As with the booze, the honey matters! While a regular, mass-produced honey will be fine in this drink, it’s also a great one for showcasing a special honey if you have one you’re excited about!

  4. And about those bitters....they’re a bit non-traditional, but we adore the little herbal kick they give to the toddy. Highly recommend!

a homemade hot toddy recipe in a mug with cinnamon stick, clove, anise and a lemon slice for garnish

Tools You’ll Need:

More Wintery Cocktail Recipes to Try

a homemade hot toddy in a mug with cinnamon stick, clove, anise and a lemons lice for garnish


We hope you love our hot toddy recipe and when you make it—or make your own version if it—we really want to hear how you like it! Snap a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

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Hot Toddy

  • Serves: 1
  • Prep Time:  0 min
  • Cook Time:  5 min
  • Calories: 182


  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp lemon juice, plus lemon slice for garnish
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 ¾ oz bourbon


  1. Add the cinnamon stick, cloves and anise to ¾ cup boiling water and allow to steep for 3 minutes.
  2. Stir in honey, lemon juice, bitters and bourbon. Add the lemon slice and enjoy immediately.

Note: for extra flavor, steep a tea bag with the hot water, black tea is great but Earl Grey is my favorite OR for something sweeter, use unfiltered apple cider in place of boiling water.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories182
  • Protein0 g
  • Carbohydrates16 g
  • Total Fat0 g
  • Dietary Fiber0 g
  • Cholesterol0 mg
  • sodium8 mg
  • Total Sugars11 g

Hot Toddy

Questions & Reviews

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  • Jenn

    This was fabulous and warmed me from the inside out in such a comforting way.

    Thanks Jenn!